(Callow’s article appeared in the Guardian, 4/20.)
Shakespeare’s inclusiveness, the overwhelming sense in the plays that all human life is there, means that focusing on any aspect of the work will produce dividends. Shakespeare and war, Shakespeare and love, Shakespeare and medicine, Shakespeare and sodomy: all provocative, all surprising, all resonant. But Shakespeare and the family is in a different league. He is, in a particularly potent sense, the Family Man. These fundamental relationships – mothers, sons, fathers, daughters, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, nephews, cousins – are at the heart of one play after another. How else could it be for a writer whose theme is the experience of being human? Which of us has not been formed, for better or for worse, by those relationships, or by their absence? And beyond the domestic kingdom, the family looms large in his work in quite another way: the destinies of nations, equally determined by blood ties.